by Ruth S. Foster

Everyone is talking about the weird weather.  Even the most conservative diehards finally understand the globe is warming.  This extra energy is causing the weather extremes, violent storms,  and problems in 2012 that are no laughing matter.

FOREST FIRES The state is on high alert, and fires happen in suburban forests too. Everywhere the ground is dry.

Old Beech Stump

Our town is 20% open space, part of it is a mess.  Trees and branches felled by storms, plus dead trees are the tinder for suburban fires. They can be started by a stray cigarette, a lightning strike or a hidden campfire. Once they start, they can be the devil to control.

We have had many fires in the past. Blown by strong west winds they sped across the conserved Audubon and Trustees of Reservations and town lands.

Our town fire engines have always come, as soon as someone smells smoke and calls them.  When there wasn't enough water pressure, they pumped water from swimming pools.  That's when one really appreciates what a good town fire department is, and why we pay taxes for these folks to protect us. I say Bless them.

Our open space and conserved land has fire problems.  Some of the fire roads have been closed.  Others are no longer passable.  Brush and dead trees are piled up, just waiting to burn.  Especially evergreens with their explosive resins. Boneyards of standing dead tree trunks too.

Grass areas need to be kept mowed very low as firebreaks. These are most important to stop the ground spread and strip clearing is often necessary.

Unfortunately, fire clearing both by machine and by hand crews is expensive.  But suburban open space has to be properly managed, and paid for
by the lands' trustees and the town.

In many places windblown fires have gotten out of control, and they burned all the way for miles and miles.  And take lots of homes with it.

Fire control methods are well known.  A fire break of grass 100' around a home is a recommended minimum in dangerous areas. After several fire scares, I keep a bag of duplicate important information and papers I would need if my home burns.  And in my mind, I have a list of the things I will grab if I have time.

Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More gardening information can be found on her website,